John Salvi MW : A Wine Competition and an International Exhibition

The 21st session of Interwine China 2018 organized by Canton Universal Fair Group Ltd., was held last month from November 9-11 at the Canton Fair in Pazhou Complex in Guangzhou, which was attended by our Bordeaux Correspondent, John Salvi MW , who also took part in an International Wine Competition in Foshan, Guangdong,China and shares his enjoyable experience.

To both my surprise and delight, and totally out of the blue, I was invited to judge a wine tasting competition in Foshan and give a Master Class at an enormous wine and spirit exhibition in Guangzhou, the 21st China (Guangzhou) International Wine and Spirits Exhibition (Interwine 2018), at the China Import and Export Fair Complex in Guangzhou.

The moment that I said I would be interested a ticket arrived before you could say “Jack Rabbit”.  I have to say that I was quite excited but had no idea what to expect.  I was a guest of the Canton Universal Fair Group.

The day arrived, and I flew to Guangzhou via Amsterdam to be met at the airport by a delightful gentleman by the name of Nick Xian, who turned out to be a curator in a magnificent gallery of ceramicartsand with a passion for wine.  Off his own bat he elected himself my guide, guardian and friend for the duration of the trip.  During the shuttle, arranged by the New Pearl Ceramic Group, to the hotel in Foshan, the Foshan Huaxia Pearl Hotel(owned by New Pearl Group), we started talking Chinese gastronomy and he immediately started organising meals on his mobile.  As soon as we had checked in to the hotel he took me for a delicious dim sum breakfast, and after a short rest, for a hotpot lunch of Mongolia lamb.

Interwine Grand Challenge (IGC)

That first evening all the judges of the 21st Interwine Grand Challenge Tasting Competition met for a delicious Chinese get-together dinnerin the presence of a famous local rice wine (baijiu) distiller.  This was Monday.  The tasting Competition was under the Presidency of Rita Jia of Interwine and the Canton Universal Fair Group.  We were 18 judges with 7 Masters of Wine divided into 6 juries of 3 each.  I was a panel leader.

The next day (Tuesday) and the following morning (Wednesday) were devoted to the competition.  There were some 600 samples to judge.  The tasting was in the magnificent Foshan Pearl Hotel, where we were lodged in great luxury.  The room was airy, cool, spacious, well-lit and comfortable.  

Tasting was done in sets of 5 wines and we had 5 good glasses.  Black spittoons, white tablecloths, paper napkins, mineral water and bread were all provided.  The tasting sheet was complicated with many more boxes to fill than the OIV sheet and it was soon agreed that we judges did not have to fill them all in, but simply give our marks out of 100 and write a clear and comprehensive tasting note.  A Silver medal required 85 points, a Gold 90 and a Double Gold 95.  We were given little or no information, not even the grape variety, which caused some consternation among several judges.  It really was a blind tasting!  There was a coffee break in the middle of each session.

We tasted 35 wines the first morning and 35 more in the afternoon and the wonderful Nick had arranged a special lunch for Christopher Burr (an old MW friend) and me of the wonderful, in-season, hairy crabs marinated in yellow wine accompanied by a 30-year-old yellow wine.  Sensational!

The evening of Tuesday there was a delicious Chinese dinner in the hotel and an equally delicious one the following day.  Nick again organised a lunch with Cantonese-style raw sliced fish fillet in a wooden palace, in the most magnificent gardens, on a beautiful lake, right in the middle of the city.

This also belonged to Delin Ye (see below).

Fine Wine Tasting at Guangzhou

The afternoon of Wednesday) we were driven to Guangzhou, to the magnificent Mandarin Oriental Hotel where we had a tasting to end all tastings.  11 wines tasted blind for us 7 Masters of Wine to comment and with 40 guests who had paid $2,000 each for the privilege.  The wines were:

Almaviva 2013

Sassicaia 2014

Château Lafite 2014

Chadwick 2014

Opus One 2014

Château Pavie 2013

Screaming Eagle 2013

Château Petrus 2013

As well as 3 Chilean wines: Kupelwe, Earl Terrence and Parcela.

Enough, I think, to make any wine lover’s mouth water!

A grand banquet dinner followed before being driven back to our hotel;

The following day (Thursday) we had a little free time and, as every morning, I had a dim sum breakfast with Nick.  That day we decided to eat in the hotel restaurant but found it so banal that Nick took Christopher Burr and myself to a special restaurant where he treated us a secret local delicacy – dog stew.  Interesting, but not something that I will repeat!

World Wine in China

The afternoon was devoted to the “Summit Meeting of World Wine in China”.  There were some delicious wines to taste from Changyu, the company for whom I used to make wine in Xinjiang.  The Gala dinner that night was magnificent and hosted by the big boss himself – Delin Ye.  he not only owned the hotel and the wooden palace where we had had lunch, but also the New-Pearl Wine Company, the New-Pearl Ceramics Group, a golf club and numerous other companies.  He made long speech and presented us all with two bottles of Moutai Baijiu. A glittering event with great Chinese food.

On Friday, after Dim Sum as usual, we set off for Guangzhou where we were lodged in the magnificent Westin Pazhou Hotel, but so bad was the traffic that I was almost late for my Masterclass on Bordeaux at the Interwine Fair at the China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Complex.  However, I made it by the skin of my teeth, lectured to a full house on how to taste professionally and on the 2018 vintage in Bordeaux, and felt that I had done a good job.

Exhausted, Nick then took me back to our hotel where we had lunch in my room before a rest.  That evening was a glittering Gala dinner in the Ballroom on the top floor of the Westin.  Each Master of Wine had to give a short speech, which was a small price to pay for the magnificent Chinese banquet.

The next day (Saturday) was the exhibition all day after a superlative Dim Sum breakfast.  I visited many stands, including that of Changyu where, as a past chief winemaker, I was graciously received.

Because that evening I was to be a guest of Wine Arts, a fine wine importer specialising in fine Italian wines, we only had a snack lunch at the fair.  I commented the wines for mine host, greatly appreciated his Feudi del Pisciotto wines and thoroughly enjoyed the special treat offered to me in my honour of baked hairy crab and yellow wine.

The next day, Sunday, was our last day and I received a visit from Aileen Lee of the Beijing Yunjiu Media Company Ltd. for whom I had written a long article on Baijiu.  Nick organised a very special lunch in the famous Nanhai Fish Village Seafoodrestaurant, where we enjoyed lobster, crab and shrimp in abundance.  

Extenuated, we spent that afternoon drinking tea and packing all the numerous gifts of tea, wine and rice spirit that I had received during the week.  Thoughtfully, Nick took me to an amazing fish restaurant on the way to the airport where we enjoyed marinated raw shrimp.  With typical courtesy he saw me to the airport, into a wheelchair, through security and on the way back to Bordeaux full of happy memories, great hospitality and fine Chinese cuisine.  

John Salvi, Master of Wine




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